On 15 July 2016, the Mekong Migration Network (MMN) and Asia Institute of Technology (AIT) co-hosted a public workshop in Bangkok to introduce the project titled: “Jobs at the border: Promoting gender-sensitive policies for Special Economic Zones in the Mekong Subregion,” supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Canada.
This three-year project, which is composed of both collaborative research and advocacy phases, will explore the policies and practices of the garment industry operating in industrial zones and Special Economic Zones in Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia and their impact on women migrant workers’ working and living conditions and life choices. The project will also investigate how these particular environments influence internal and cross-border migrant women’s participation in collective action and relationship with local communities.
The workshop generated a space to begin mapping out issues surrounding labour migration, the garment industry, and industrial zones and Special Economic Zones in the Greater Mekong Sub-region from the perspective of government, business, and civil society actors. The resource persons for the workshop were: Ms. Sonomi Tanaka, Technical Advisor (Gender Equity) of the Asian Development Bank’s Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department; Mr. Bent Gehrt, Field Director of Worker Rights Consortium, an independent labour rights monitoring organization; Mr. Thit Lwin Aung, a member of 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, a political civil society organization operating in Burma/Myanmar; Dr. Termsap Telakul, a policy and plan analyst from the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board of Thailand; Ms. Khine Khine Nwe, General Secretary of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association; and Dr. Ken Loo, Secretary-General of the Cambodia Garment Manufacturers Association.
The public workshop, and succeeding two-day internal meeting with project partners, provoked discussion on the scope, methods, and potential benefits of MMN and AIT’s joint field-based research project. It is hoped that the project will continue to foster regional dialogue as research activities progress across each of the three countries.